Death Customs by Constantia Soteriou (tr. Lina Protopapa)

a nutshell: this is a mystical, soulful dialogue (of sorts) between a chorus of women’s voices and a widow narrating what it was like to await the return of men – dead or alive – who fought in the conflict that followed the 1974 coup d’état

a line: “Tell me, Spasoula, are there people who are forever lost? People nobody will ever find? And how are they going to call the lost that are lost? Are there words to describe the lost who will not be found?”

an image: the author reimagine the mass burials that saw Turkish and Greek men buried on top of one another them as ultimately kindling friendship – when the rains inevitably came, they filled the wells and gathered the bones together in harmony

a thought: despite the agony of abandonment and grief, the narrator ends with a tacit call for reconciliation and solidarity between the women who waited – whatever their background; I found this story fascinating, especially the way in which Soteriou weaved in so many Cypriot folklore/rituals around birth and death

a fact: this story (deservedly!) won the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

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